STARKVILLE – In baseball, numbers can tell a story of the present, but they can tell a story of the future, too.
For Mississippi State, there are plenty of numbers that paint an ugly picture of its offensive struggles this season. Big, important numbers, the glory numbers, if you will:
– State’s .295 batting average ranks eighth in the SEC, as does its .457 slugging percentage.
– The Bulldogs have belted 47 home runs, which ranks eighth.
– With runners in scoring position, they’re hitting just .282, which ranks last.
– In the most important offensive statistical category, MSU has scored 210 runs, tied for 10th in the league.
This weekend, MSU (21-24, 6-15 SEC) plays host to Alabama (30-15, 12-9), a team that leads the league in several offensive categories, including batting average (.338), slugging (.592), on-base percentage (.423), and hits (550). The Crimson Tide is second to Auburn in home runs with 91.
“Had a lot of guys back but did not foresee what they have done this year,” Alabama coach Jim Wells said. “I knew we would be solid but didn’t see all the home runs.”
Cohen isn’t too surprised, saying this Tide team is a product of Wells’ recruiting three to four years ago. Cohen is hoping for the same end result with the Bulldogs, and certain numbers suggest he’ll get that result.
Cohen’s a small-ball guy, and State is pretty solid in the small-ball categories:
– Its .399 on-base percentage ranks fourth in the SEC.
– State’s 208 walks ranks second.
– MSU batters have been hit by a pitch 62 times, tied for second.
– In the ultimate measure of a good small-ball team, the Bulldogs are the SEC’s co-leaders in sacrifice bunts with 39. The other team with 39: Kentucky, Cohen’s former team.
State is also batting .305 in SEC games, which ranks third.
“It’s definitely a work in progress, I guess, but I think for sure it’s going to get better,” said center fielder Grant Hogue, who’s hitting .333 with 28 stolen bases.
“When I look at their numbers,” Wells said, “first of all, John is as good a hitting guy as there is in the country, so you know you’re facing a team that’s going to battle each and every at-bat.”
Cohen said he feels every Bulldog has improved in the hitting game, though with so many new faces and players recovering from injuries, it’s often hard to measure improvement.
He just keeps looking ahead to the future and can take encouragement in those positive stats.
“I think when you look at this whole process, it’s a three- or four-year process for every program,” he said. “Having gone through this before at the University of Kentucky early on, there’s a lot of similarities there.”
– Tonight: Mississippi State TBA vs. Alabama RHP Austin Hyatt (6-1, 3.45)
– Saturday: Mississippi State LHP Nick Routt (4-3, 3.41) vs. Alabama LHP Del Howell (5-2, 4.79)
– Sunday: Mississippi State LHP Tyler Whitney (2-4, 5.02) vs. Alabama RHP Adam Scott (2-1, 4.08)
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal